There’s an aspect to healthy/mindful eating that, for the most part, isn’t overtly discussed: the act of getting the most out of your food by creating/experiencing instances of sublime taste. In this, the focus isn’t the nutritional value of what we’re eating, but rather the sensory value. Not sure what I mean? Let me explain…
I’m quick to judge a restaurant, particularly those billed as “fine dining”, with the first bite. I’m looking for a moment where time stops, my eyes involuntarily close, and I become completely absorbed in the experience of tasting the food I’ve just put into my mouth. According to various table companions, there’s humming involved as well. I know this moment is just as likely to occur at a hole-in-the-wall establishment as a Michelin-rated restaurant, or with a sautéed field mushroom as with a confit of rare-breed duck. I’ve learned the price of food has no bearing on whether or not this moment will occur, it has much more to do with the quality of the food and the level of skill with which it’s been prepared.
I’ve also learned that these moments are not dependent upon restaurants. In fact, they’re more readily supplied by food in its natural state which I shop for and serve to myself. I’ll never forget the small Moroccan cantaloupes or muscat grapes I bought from a supermarket (of all places) in France. Both of these “first tastes” changed my life and set precedents by which I judge all other melons and grapes. In moments like these, something leaps up inside me and marvels at how delicious (sublime) food can taste. Yes, I know this may sound bizarre and overzealous, but I’m okay with that.
So how does this involve healthy eating? Well, I believe the healthiest of diets will be peppered with moments like these. Truly mindful eating involves full engagement of all the senses; it’s one of those rare human experiences that’s as functional as it is sensual. We don’t just eat to satiate hunger, we eat for pleasure and enjoyment as well. Healthy diets will embody all of these aspects because there’s a direct correlation between flavor and nutrition. Read this, How Flavor Drives Nutrition, to understand how industrialization is producing food that’s blander and less nutritious. One of the biggest problems with bland food is that it encourages overeating. Our bodies will always feel like something’s missing (Flavor! Nutrients!), so we keep eating. Or, we get caught up in the battle of wills within ourselves to stop eating before we’re fully satisfied. Either way, the outcome is an unhealthy relationship with food.
If the food you’re eating is not demanding your full participation, not forcing you to pause to notice how tasty it is, or needs to be masked with loads of sweeteners, seasonings or additive-laden condiments, then you’re not eating healthy food. If you’ve never experienced the moment of sublime taste I’m talking about, you need to do something about that asap. You need to strive to have as many of these moments as possible, because they’re incredible and good for you.
As I mature as a mindful eater and my food philosophy develops, I find that adhering to specific dietary regulations isn’t as important to me as when I first started studying nutrition and diet. I’ve been there, where I counted calories, cut out certain foods/food substances, and tried to perfectly balance every meal. It can wreck your head, and that’s not healthy. Now the only thing I avoid is highly processed foods (and even then, occasionally a little white sugar makes it into my diet). My main focus is seeking out instances of sublime taste, and giving these moments the respect of my full attention.
You realize what’s going to happen, don’t you? Your body and mind will start demanding real, whole foods because highly processed “junk” will not satisfy in the same way. So, are you ready for a life of sublime tastes?
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